Dorian is churning through the Caribbean, threatening to strike Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as a hurricane on Tuesday morning.
Nurtured by warm waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Dorian is gaining strength as it cuts a northwestern path, with winds threatening to reach 74 miles per hour by Monday evening. If dry air and wind shear fail to curb the storm, it is likely to become a category one hurricane.
Dorian is compressed in size – the radius of its strongest winds is about 45 miles – but not in potential force. Even before reaching full strength, it is likely to deluge the islands in its path with heavy rainfall – up to 10 inches in some locations.
While the storm will lose strength by the end of the week, if not earlier – the result, in part, of interacting with rough terrain of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic – its remains could reach the southeast of the U.S. mainland.
Islands throughout the Caribbean declared tropical storm warnings or watches during the weekend and on Monday. Crowds of people hurried to collect supplies before the arrival of wind and rain.
For Puerto Rico, the threat of a new, potentially destructive storm is particularly unwelcome. The U.S. territory still lives in the shadow of Hurricane Maria, which decimated the island in 2017, left some people without power for nearly a year, and caused the deaths of thousands. It’s rare that a conversation with one of the island’s residents makes no mention of the ruinous storm.
Another strong storm could shatter Puerto Rico’s fragile equilibrium and upend its delicate recovery process.
For the island of Dominica, too, Maria was devastating. Slammed full-force by the category five hurricane, the nation of roughly 70,000 lost the majority of its buildings, and its infrastructure was heavily damaged. It’s not clear how many ultimately died as a result of the storm.
Although the whipping winds of a hurricane making landfall can inflict immediate damage – it’s actually the accompanying water that causes the vast majority of a hurricane’s deaths.
In addition, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed thousands of deaths occurred in the months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, roughly one-third of which were caused by lack of access to medical care.
To prevent similar deaths, Direct Relief has stationed Hurricane Preparation Packs throughout the Caribbean, from Jamaica to Grenada. The packs, which contain everything from first-aid supplies to vital medications for chronic diseases and allergic reactions, were developed with experts to save lives during and after a hurricane or similar event.
To track the hurricane and check the locations of pre-positioned modules, see the map below.
Direct Relief has worked to insulate Puerto Rico against future devastation by providing solar generators, medical refrigerators, satellite phones, and off-road-capable medical response vehicles to health centers throughout the island.
Direct Relief also works closely with the intergovernmental Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
The organization’s status as a non-state actor and supplier of medical commodities to the Pan American Health Organization (the World Health Organization’s arm in the Americas) allows it to quickly and strategically distribute pivotal medications and supplies throughout the region in the event of an emergency.
Direct Relief has extended offers of aid to partner organizations throughout the region and will continue to monitor the storm as it progresses.